This Friday hits our half-year mark with our xDay experiment. June 26 will be our sixth xDay that we’ve dedicated to innovation, learning something new, and improving the way we work. Through all the hours, we've walked away with multiple projects we are proud of, from podcasts, to wall art, to information databases. Check out what our innovation days are all about:
Matt Morasky is a Consultant at XPLANE.
Perhaps when you were a start up, a healthy company culture developed effortlessly. But then the company started to take off and you realized you needed more bodies than you had friends. You needed different roles, talents and personalities and now you are wondering, what happened to the culture?
Or maybe your small firm just merged with another. You knew who you each were, but now you are both trying to figure out who you collectively are. Suddenly, unspoken rules and behaviors are in question – what is the right way to behave?
Or perhaps you’re a new leader at an established organization trying to make big changes. It seems impossible and everyone agrees on only one thing – the problem is the culture.
Can organizational culture be changed? Can it be influenced? Can it be… fixed?
Maintaining our healthy company culture is a deeply held commitment for us at XPLANE, and we see onboarding as a critical part of that effort. Onboarding is more than ensuring people have the physical tools they need to do their work. They also need the social and emotional tools to feel empowered, supported and excited for their new chapter.
Teaching and learning are both an integral part of our culture and vision at XPLANE. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that as a design consultancy, we're automatically comprised of people with a natural curiosity wanting to know the big picture as well as the details, and always looking for the human story in things. As such, XPLANErs seem born with an insatiable hunger for learning, no matter if it is a brand-new methodology or the latest customer insights.
“We need this.”
“This” is visual thinking and the “we” are professors from the top MBA programs around the world at the annual meeting for the Production and Operations Management Society earlier this month.
Slide decks can be amazing. When used right PowerPoint, Prezi, Keynote, and all the other presentation tools can inspire, persuade, educate, mobilize and motivate. At XPLANE we love creating unique and compelling presentations to reach all kinds of audiences.
When XPLANE launched our unlimited vacation policy more than a year ago, nearly everyone outside of the company was skeptical.
The responses were typical. “We couldn’t do that here. If I gave my team unlimited vacation, I would never see them again.” “It works for XPLANE because you can trust your team not to abuse it, but that just wouldn’t work at my company. People here couldn't handle it.”
What makes XPLANE so special? Why can we trust our staff with a completely flexible work environment and unlimited paid time off (PTO) when other companies feel compelled to enforce a stricter “butts-in-chairs” policy?
This may sound too simple, but the difference is we can trust our employees because we do trust our employees. XPLANE believes in what I like to call a “trust-first mentality.”
Unlimited PTO is phased into our employee benefits after the first year, but our completely flexible work environment starts from day one. If you are part of the team, we trust that you are an all-star, and you will always be treated as such.
Our “trust-first” way of thinking is backed by data.
It’s proven that happiness and performance increase when trust is extended. The National Bureau of Economic Research says that a 10% increase in trust in an organization had the same impact on employee satisfaction as a 36% increase in pay.
In an interview with Harvard Business Review around the release of his book Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal discussed the importance of extending and displaying trust from day one He told HBR, “I try to exhibit trust in small ways. In a briefing, if somebody asks me for a decision, I might turn to a subordinate and ask them to handle it. I don’t ask for specifics, and I’m very overt—almost theatrical—about it. Everybody else sees it. The message is ‘I trust you guys to handle this stuff,’ and that can grow virally throughout an organization.”
You can’t just say you trust them. You have to prove it.
Importantly, trust is hollow if it’s not extended fully. Many companies say they believe in and value trust, but then they require complicated approvals for a vacation day, or they install video cameras or Internet monitoring. When employers do that, they are verbally touting trust, but their actions say, “I can only trust you if I can see and approve of what you are doing.”
It’s hard to imagine that kind of monitoring outside of work. “Of course I trust my best friend, I just have to watch where she goes all the time and check her phone records to prove I can trust her.” People who acted like that might find themselves friendless pretty quickly.
Employment relationships are the same: if organizations want engaged and happy employees, leaders must find ways to not only extend trust but also expand autonomy. For XPLANE, having a completely flexible work environment is a way to do that. XPLANE employees embrace a culture where we meet client deadlines while delighting and wowing our customers. With the flexible work environment, we convey to our employees, “I trust you to both meet deadlines and produce world-class quality work. Everything else is up to you.”
If employees are confident that we trust them to take whatever time they need to recharge as long as the work gets done on time, the work gets done on time. If they know that leadership believes the quality remains high whether you finish a project from the studio or from your sofa, the quality never suffers.
In fact, more often than not, our well-rested employees produce even higher quality projects than expected because the more trust that is given, the better everyone performs.
We were thrilled when Fortune Magazine recognized XPLANE as #3 in the U.S. for flexibility. It is recognition that we are on the right path in providing trust in our employees. Our goal is not to be the anomaly; instead, we’d like to start a conversation that might lead to a movement to change the future of work.
We’ll start the conversation by encouraging leaders to ask themselves, what would my company look like if we allowed complete flexibility? What behaviors would I have to change or develop to make this happen? How would I feel to work at a place that trusted me even when I wasn’t anywhere in sight?
We invite you to follow our series as we explore workplace flexibility and trust and how we make it work for XPLANE. Until then, we encourage company leaders to look at their current policies and philosophies regarding flexibility and how that may be reinforcing or eroding trust in their organizations.